Demorest, Ga— Social media allows people to remain connected to others at all times, but it can also lead to negative effects on individual’s lives.
“The risk of negative consequences on an individual with mental health are much greater when an individual is constantly online,” Said Abby Cox, a junior Mass Communications major. “Multiple factors like social media lead to mental illness.”
Cox presented her research, “Beautiful Suffering Turned to Dark Dismay: Glorification of Mental Illness on Social Media,” at The 2020 Piedmont Symposium, held on April 15. Cox recalls misconceptions and misbeliefs of mental illness within the media. Expressing concern for the well-being and mental health of others, she notes the negative impact that social media has on those with illnesses.
“Belittling the severity of mental illness can make those with mental illness feel belittled,” She said.
Cox’s words regarded the seriousness of her topic. Cox says the impact that a belittling statement, such as being “depressed” because an individual is unable to attend a concert, has a detrimental effect on a person who is clinically depressed.
“These statements hurt your feelings and make you think that maybe your pain doesn’t matter or isn’t anything serious,” Cox says.
The more social media romanticizes mental illness, the less likely it is for an individual with an actual mental illness to speak up. An individual’s self-esteem plummets and their health and well-being are harmed.
“By researching this topic, it has really opened my eyes on how frequently mental illness is glorified through social media,” Cox said, noting that millions of individuals suffer from mental illness such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder. “So, the fact that some people are not taking such a thing seriously is disheartening.”
Cox says that individuals on social media platforms use emotions such as sadness in their photo captions and poses online. Other viewers will look up to these photos and then strive to be ‘sad’ as well. People on social media are not aware of their impact on those who are mental ill.
Dr. Melissa Tingle, mass communications professor and Cox’s research adviser, said that she has seen social media used as a channel to highlight mental illness. “Sometimes they are constructively written and helpful to others and some lack of false humility and pity that feels like the individual is seeking attention.”
Tingle thinks that some individuals use mental illness in social media as a way to gain attention. Although some people are genuine, others are ignorant to their negative actions on social media. Tingle says that it is best if people are more aware of what they are putting online.
“I had never really noticed the negative impact until now,” Connor Rogers said after watching Cox’s presentation, “I can see now that my friends act sad to seem cool — like it is a popular trend.”
Rogers recalls hearing his friends throw around the word “depression” as a casual thing. He says that it seems like people want to be depressed because it makes them cooler and edgier than others.
“People need to realize that mental illness is a real thing that affects millions of people,” Rogers said. “Throwing around terms like depression and anxiety need to stop.”
Rogers realizes that mental illness is a severe disease and individuals should do what they can to eliminate the glorification in social media. He is willing to do his part in spreading positivity online and around his peers in order to stop the glorification.
“We have to be careful about what we post and how our posts are interpreted,” Cox said. “We should help stop the things that other people post if they are glorifying social media.”
Cox calls for the increased spread of positivity on social media as well as more awareness when someone is typing a caption or taking a photo in order to stop the glorification of mental illness.
Cox talks about her ability to impact social media in a positive way. Although she may not be feeling very positive one day, she knows that other individuals who are struggling will need an extra boost to their confidence.
“I try to spread as much positivity as possible on social media,” Cox said. “Somebody else might need to see it as well, and that could very well turn their day around if they are struggling.”